An employer’s guide to quashing loneliness and sowing social connection

Loneliness has been deemed an epidemic, and its effects are associated with increased health risks and reduced employee performance. How can employers cultivate a culture of connection in the workplace?

The COVID-19 pandemic may be behind most of us, but according to US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, there’s another epidemic sweeping the nation: one of loneliness. In fact, this condition preceded the pandemic, with more than 50% of American adults reporting feelings of loneliness pre-COVID, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Forced isolation during the pandemic only served to exacerbate the issue, which continues to run rampant today.

This feeling of disconnection and isolation can have serious ramifications for mental and physical health and, in turn, the health of our society as a whole. A lack of social connection can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression, dementia, susceptibility to illness, and even premature death. For example, the negative health effects of loneliness can be compared to smoking 15 cigarettes per day1.

“Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity, and substance use disorders,” Dr. Murthy said. “Together, we can build a country that’s healthier, more resilient, less lonely, and more connected.”2

In an advisory shared by Dr. Murthy in May 2023, numerous studies were cited as evidence of how social connectedness benefits all of us. Specifically for working Americans, fostering inclusivity has been linked to lower levels of chronic stress and burnout in the workplace. Additionally, connectivity has been shown to enhance employee engagement and satisfaction, creativity, competence, innovation and job performance1.

So, what can employers do to cultivate a culture of connection in the workplace? The US Surgeon General offered many suggestions, starting with prioritizing socialization at all levels of an organization1. Employers can also:

  • Empower company leaders and managers to nurture connection across teams and initiatives
  • Use existing support programs to educate employees on the power of social connection at work
  • Promote a workplace culture that addresses whole-person wellness and inclusion
  • Enact policies that respect work-life balance
  • Explore ways to keep employees connected amid hybrid or remote work1

For employers to succeed in fostering social connection in the workplace, it’s important to tailor efforts to specific work environments and cultures. Additionally, striving for continuous improvement will help ensure employees are supported through this epidemic of loneliness now and in the future.

Helping employees foster better human connections in their lives is good business. Learn how WellSpark helps employers improve the health of their workforce through employee support individual, group and text to promote a culture of wellbeing.


[1] Surgeon General’s Advisory (May 2023). “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community.” US Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed March 31, 2024, from

[2] US Department of Health and Human Services (May 2023). “New Surgeon General Advisory Raises Alarm about the Devastating Impact of the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the United States.” Accessed March 31, 2024, from